When Alastair Cook punched Mohammad Amir through the onside for two on the opening day of this second Test he pulled up alongside the great Don Bradman on cricket’s all-time list of century-makers.
Cook’s 29th Test hundred, and his first in nine months, helped England into a position of strength in Manchester as they look to draw level in the series following last week’s defeat at Lord’s.
The opener, eventually bowled by Amir on the stroke of tea, already has more Test centuries and more runs than any Englishman in history.
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But drawing level with ‘The Don’ was a special moment.
Granted, Bradman played significantly less Tests – just 52 compared to Cook’s 131. Even the Englishman admitted: “I can’t really compare that, he did it in less than half of the games I did.”
Bradman’s average – the immortal 99.94 – is a fair bit higher than Cook’s 47.13. Then again, it’s a fair bit higher than anyone else’s either.
Comparing players from different eras is always a good talking point. Yet I’m not seriously suggesting there really is any comparison between Cook or Bradman other than both can probably be regarded as their country’s most distinguished batsmen.
There is one other random link between Cook and ‘The Don’ I discovered on my first visit to the fine Bradman Collection museum at the redeveloped Adelaide Oval during the 2013-14 Ashes series.
Within that exhibition is the bat the Australian scored his maiden Test century with – against England at the MCG in 1928. The blade was made in Chelmsford, where Cook has spent his entire career playing for Essex.
It is a career that, while not as distinguished as Bradman’s, has been one of spectacular highs and just a few lows.
When he became the first England batsman to pass 10,000 Test runs earlier this northern summer, Cook earned the right to be mentioned alongside the greats of the game.
His style, more pragmatic than eye-catching, is not to everyone’s taste.
But he showed his real value as a batsman and a leader on the first day of this second Test against Pakistan.
After winning his first toss in five against opposite number Misbah-ul-Haq in the morning, he went on to produce a typically gritty innings that has laid the foundations for what should be a match-winning total for England.
The century, which came in 157 balls, was Cook’s first since he struck a marathon 263 against Pakistan at Abu Dhabi last October. That knock, which lasted 13 hours and 56 minutes, was the longest by any Englishman in Test history.
There had been five half-centuries since but to convert this innings in such a pivotal match for his side was typical Cook. His timing, both on and off the field, is often flawless.
He knows his limitations too and at times like this it is perhaps worth asking how long can he go on for?
At 31, Cook has plenty of playing years left in him but I would suggest it would be unlikely he is England’s captain when the next Ashes series comes around on Australian soil in a little over 12 months’ time.
Such are the twin strains of opening the batting and captaining the side, Cook may decide it is best to step down as captain sooner rather than later – perhaps even at the end of this northern summer.
With an able replacement in Joe Root, his current deputy who also scored a hundred yesterday, ready and waiting Cook knows he could easily slip back into the ranks and concentrate on doing what he does best – scoring big Test-match runs.
If his workload is eased in terms of losing the captaincy, who knows how many more records Cook might go on to break?